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Technology and Aging-In-Place, Part 1

October 9, 2018 | Comments

Ric Johnson, owner of the firm Right at Home Technologies, is an NAHB Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in Ohio.

Although Johnson specializes in assisting Alzheimer’s and early onset dementia patients and their families, the technology he’s using has the potential for broad applications in the rapidly growing aging-in-place market, he said.

“Many of the patients we work with initially display symptoms of ‘night timers’ — they’re fairly symptom-free throughout the day, but as dusk and nighttime approach, they tend to become forgetful, think they are somewhere else (and with someone else) and display confusion, fear, and sometimes anger,” Johnson said.

“Additionally, we see a rise in wandering, slips, and falls. These common issues are a constant worry for caregivers and other family members who do not live with the individual or close by.”

As a result, said Johnson, “We see increased interest in remodeling one’s home to age comfortably, and we also see adult children taking in a parent and needing the addition of a room or a suite of rooms. Then there are couples that are looking to the future and wanting to downsize into a new home so that they can age gracefully together.”

A Wird Backbone Plus the Right Devices

For the standard CAPS build, either a remodel or new construction, a backbone of structured wiring is essential, said Johnson.

“While we have a lot of wireless devices and apps, they need a robust Wi-Fi network. We find that providing an enterprise-grade router and switch along with properly placed and calibrated wireless access points allow our wireless devices to connect clearly. We use a backbone of both Category 6 cabling with runs of fiber to very specific locations such as bathroom, bedroom and kitchen,” he said.

Johnson and his team run wire paths in hallways, baths, bedrooms and kitchen cabinets for very specific purposes.

“When we have an individual who tends to wander at night, we place pressure pads along the edge of the bed or in the bathroom. Those pads trigger program notifications if a motion detector is tripped in the nighttime hours, sending an email or text message to caregivers and family members,” he said.

“While we provide a wireless pill minder, we also monitor the cabinet where medicines are kept with a small, hard-wired door sensor. We monitor for falls and slips with an RFID bracelet and accelerometer, which has multiple hard-wire readers placed around the house,” Johnson said.

“In all of our projects, we start with developing a lighting plan around the family’s lifestyle,” Johnson notes. “As we age, our eyesight begins to reduce, thus the need for more lighting. LED fixtures and replacement lamps with the proper color hue and lumens are important, as is how we control them. We work to get the most natural lighting possible by using blinds and shades.”